Symptoms of a Sociopath in Men, Women, Children
The definition of sociopath is someone without a conscience who manipulates the world and those in it to benefit himself. Thankfully, there are distinct symptoms of a sociopath to help people recognize one (What is a Sociopathic Person Like?). The symptoms of being a sociopath in men, women, and children are actually a cluster of behaviors and personality traits. These symptoms, these sociopathic traits and behaviors, are seen in how the sociopath interacts with other people.
Symptoms of Being a Sociopath: What a Sociopath Is
When someone first encounters a sociopath, he or she often has a vague feeling that the person is "off" somehow. As seen below, one symptom of a sociopath is dynamic charm, so it can be difficult to determine why this "off" feeling nags at the back of the mind. Knowing the sociopath symptoms can help people more clearly identify a sociopath in their midst.
The symptoms of a sociopath paint a clear picture of someone who is a cold, self-centered, manipulative person with no conscience. A sociopath is
- antisocial, caring neither for societal rules, norms, and laws, nor for other people; a sociopath has no empathy.
- conniving, manipulative, deceitful, and dishonest; a symptom of a sociopath is blatant violation of the rights of others.
- a control freak; a sociopath needs control, has the skills to get it, and will stop at nothing to achieve it.
- charming and smooth; for someone who is antisocial, an ironic symptom of a sociopath is someone who has incredible social skills. However, don't let this sociopath symptom fool you, for these social skills are superficial, insincere, and only used by the sociopath to get his or her way.
- a rule-breaker and a risk-taker; for this reason, the sociopath has repeated clashes with the law and commonly has a criminal record.
So, you may be wondering, "Do sociopaths cry or even have feelings?" Read this.
Symptoms of a Sociopath: What a Sociopath Is Not
The symptoms of being a sociopath involve traits and behaviors. These behaviors and personality traits are about how the sociopath interacts with others and who he or she is as a person. Additionally, they are about who the sociopath is not, what he is not like. A sociopath is
- not disoriented or out of touch with reality; the symptoms of a sociopath point to a person who is rational, aware, and calculating, and his or her behavior is a choice.
- not psychotic; a sociopath doesn't have hallucinations or delusions. (It's important to note that the term "psychopath" is often confused with the term "psychotic." To be psychotic means to be out of touch with reality due to hallucinatory sensations and delusional beliefs.)
- incapable of giving or receiving love or of caring about others (Can Sociopaths Love or Even Fall in Love?); a prominent symptom of being a sociopath is a lack of empathy and conscience.
- unable or unwilling to learn from negative consequences; a sociopath is often in and out of jail or prison because rehabilitation is impossible.
Do Men, Women, and Children Show the Same Symptoms of Being a Sociopath?
The above symptoms of being a sociopath apply to everyone who is a sociopath—pretty much, anyway. One can't be officially diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (a sociopath) until age 18 (Sociopathic Children: How Do They Become That Way?). While there must be a history of behavior problems in adolescents (by age 15, often earlier), a minor isn't considered to be a sociopath. At most, he or she can be diagnosed with conduct disorder.
Once someone reaches adulthood at age 18, he or she can be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. At this point, he's a sociopath and displays the symptoms of being a sociopath. According to the American Psychiatric Assoication's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM-5, (2013), only a small percentage of the population has antisocial personality disorder; specifically, between 0.2% and 3.3% of people have the symptoms of being a sociopath. Both genders can have antisocial personality disorder, but males outnumber females by more than three to one (Fallon, 2013).
Sociopath symptoms in men are the same as female sociopath symptoms. To be sure, there are individual differences; after all, while cold and calculating, sociopaths are humans rather than robots.
Despite individual differences among sociopathic people, the core symptoms of a sociopath are the same for all who have antisocial personality disorder. The main issue isn't how sociopaths differ from each other. The biggest concern is what symptoms of being a sociopath set these men and women (and children who will become men and women) apart from the other 99 percent of humanity.
Last Updated: 21 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD